Do Mandatory Spay and Neuter Laws Work?

Pet overpopulation has been a constant problem in the United States.  It has taken the lives of millions of innocent animals, like a disease.  Statistics show that 3-4 million homeless pets are euthanized in animal shelters every year – simply because there are not enough homes for all of the cats and dogs in this country. 

 

The data shows that the most effective way to stop this problem is by spaying and neutering pets. This has caused a flood of new laws to be implemented across the country that make it mandatory for cats and dogs to be sterilized. 

 

In theory it seems like a simple fix. If there are more pets, than available homes – stop the animals from producing more kittens and puppies. 

 

But if you take a closer look, the issue is a more complicated.  The American Association for the Prevention and Cruelty of Animals recommends that communities research where unwanted animals are coming from before passing a mandatory law.  They warn that “no single program or law can be relied on to solve the problem.”

 

80/20 Rule

In most cities the majority of intakes at animal shelters come from a small percentage of pet owners. It’s the 80/20 rule at work.  80% of the problem comes from 20% of the population. 

 

Typically the majority of unwanted cats and dogs come from three segments of a community:

  • Low-income Areas – Research shows that poorer neighborhoods have several times the number
  •  of “unaltered” adult cats and dogs than affluent areas.  Those pets reproduce and relinquished to shelters at a higher rate.
  •  
  • Backyard Breeders – Studies reveal these individuals readily turn over the kittens and puppies they are unable to sell to animal shelters.
  •  
  • Feral Cat Colonies – In many communities feral cats make up a large majority of the felines euthanized in shelters.

 

Spay and neuter laws work best when these populations are targeted and when communities take a hard look at the other major contributors in their towns.

 

The Program

Successful spay and neuter programs must be comprehensive and take into consideration the needs of every type of pet owner.  If they are seen as strictly punitive then people tend to “go underground” with their animals and do everything they can to avoid the law.  In the past some pet owners stopped taking their cats and dogs to veterinarians because they could not afford the cost of privately paid sterilizations.  They worried that their veterinarians would turn them in to the authorities.

 

Here are some of the necessary components for a successful mandatory spay and neuter program spelled out by the ASPCA:

  • The community should have an “adequately funded, readily accessible, safe, efficient, affordable spay/neuter program.”  Low cost or free spay and neuter clinics are a must.
  • The community should “produce programs that are targeted to those populations” that contribute the most to pet overpopulation.
  • The community should “provide compelling incentives to have the surgery performed.”  This may translate into free vouchers or materials to educate the public. 
  • Spay and neuter programs should be written with high quality veterinary guidelines so that every surgery is safe.
  • There must be a component that addresses feral cats, such as a Trap-Neuter-Release program.
  • There must be a method to financially keep the program ongoing.

Good News

The good news is the number of cats and dogs entering animal shelters in the U.S. has been on a steady decline for the past several decades.  In the 1970’s the euthanasia rate was 12-20 million pets per year.  Research shows this decline happened because more pets are being spayed and neutered. 

 

Mandatory Laws

The question remains whether or not mandatory spay and neuter laws work.  It appears they are most successful when they are comprehensive policies rather than a “one-size fits all” proposition.  

 

Mandatory spay and neuter laws may be a lot like mandatory seat belt laws.  The majority of people would choose to “buckle up” whether or not there was an ordinance.  They understand the science behind the law and realize it saves lives.  However, the law was passed because of a small minority of folks who ignored these facts. 

 

The same is true with spay and neuter.  The research shows sterilization is sound and most people elect to have their pets fixed, but a small percent continue to add to the problem.  So, more communities are taking it upon themselves to act on behalf of animals.  If you know the cure for an ailment, it is only rational that you would do what you could to fix it. 

 

 

HCWS

209 comments

Lenee Lirette
Lenee Lirette8 years ago

my rule of thumb is to never take in an animal that you can't afford or don't intend to take care of. making irrational decisions at the shelter because of how "cute" the animal is can be highly detrimental to both the owner and the pet. At the cat/kitten shelter where I volunteer, we always make sure that the new-to-be owner is well equipped with the knowledge of the cat through and through. If the cat is not already spayed or neutered, a $100 deposit to make sure you get it fixed is required and after you have proof of the operation, the money is returned. This helps a great deal with overpopulation problems in the area.

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Lenee Lirette
Lenee Lirette8 years ago

my rule of thumb is to never take in an animal that you can't afford or don't intend to take care of. making irrational decisions at the shelter because of how "cute" the animal is can be highly detrimental to both the owner and the pet. At the catshelter where I volunteer, we always make sure that the new-to-be owner is well equipped with the knowledge of the cat through and through. If the cat is not already spayed or neutered, a $100 deposit to make sure you get it fixed is required and after you have proof of the operation, the money is returned. This helps a great deal with overpopulation problems in the area.

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Courtney Coggins
Courtney Coggins8 years ago

I think that a mandatory spay and neuter would be a great way to help the overpopulation of animals IF AND ONLY IF there are rules set up to help the people that can't afford to spay/neuter their pets, and have specific rules to allow you to not be a part of the rules ex: certified breeders. Also the government must take special care to find the breeders that do there breeding under the radar (puppy mills) as well as the feral cats and dogs that run around. They would also have to set rules up for the law, and make sure the rules are followed regarding animals that are ALREADY in place. You shouldn't make more animal laws when the existing ones are not being followed because it wouldn't help things because it would not be took seriously.

I think that people who don't fix there pets because they feel bad or because they don't want them to lose there manhood would either be a) less likely to get a dog that would make/have puppies or b)get them fixed because they had to and they had no choice because they didnt want to have to face the punishment.

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Mary C.
Mary C8 years ago

OK you win. We pay taxes. A lot in taxes, but you win.

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Sian A.
Sian A8 years ago

This is getting off topic now, so this is the last comment I'll be making on this subject. Where I live certain public services are paid for by taxes. I'm presuming that applies where you live. Here non private schools are paid for with tax money. Childrens parks are paid for with tax money. Refuse disposal is paid by tax money. If the same applies where you live, members of the public will be contributing to paying for your children to use certain services and facilities.

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Mary C.
Mary C8 years ago

Sian, how are taxpayers paying for my sons? I am not getting welfare, food stamps etc. We pay taxes and get nothing back.

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Sian A.
Sian A8 years ago

Mary: The members of the public who are paying taxes. Their money.

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Mary C.
Mary C8 years ago

I said....I am guessing you KNOW I was referring to someone who is presently on government assistance, and cannot even support themselves or their kids right now, should think twice about getting a pet.


Sian says....Somebody in that position shouldn't think about getting a pet no.



No. Of course not. Thank you..


Sian says...you’ve produced two children, other peoples money will be contributing to paying for them,

Whose money?

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Sian A.
Sian A8 years ago

Mary: "We are talking about breeding dogs, not people. But yes I "bred" my 2 sons."

Although we're talking about dogs and not people, anybody who has bred from themselves, is in no position to suggest my pets should be spayed or neutered and not allowed to breed. You chose to breed from yourself, and you've contributed to the most overpopulated species on the planet. So what makes you think you're in a position to suggest my animals shouldn't have the right to breed, or even keep their reproductive organs?! You've been questioning me about being a breeder, when in fact you're a breeder yourself. You’ve suggested I could be on government assistance, as if I’m a drain on resources! when you’ve produced two children, other peoples money will be contributing to paying for them, but that doesn‘t seem to be of your concern. I'm guessing you haven't had your sons castrated either. When you have, then maybe you can recommend the procedure to the male animals in my household.

"You seem to be at the computer quite a bit too." Yes I do use the computer regularly, but I wasn’t the one making random suggestions that other people weren’t doing much work for animals, and questioning their income. That’s why I mentioned the length of time you appear to spend at your computer.

"According to MY profile??? YOUR profile could not be found." I don’t know what you’re suggesting I’m doing wrong there!

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Sian A.
Sian A8 years ago

Jewel: I'm not neglecting any causes to spend my time writing comments on here instead.
Mary: Free veterinary treatment shouldn't be given to everyone for obvious reasons. If you can afford to pay for treatment you don't need to be given treatment for free, because there is no good reason for doing so. As I've already pointed out, there are good reasons for providing people who can't afford veterinary treatment with free treatment or treatment at a reduced rate so they can afford it.
Their are plenty of assistance dogs who aren't providing life saving service, their enhancing the lives of the person they live with, not saving their life necessarily. There are other dogs who are enhancing peoples lives too, so no it's not a whole different story. There are a lot of people who's quality of live would be greatly reduced if they couldn't afford to keep their pet.

I am guessing you KNOW I was referring to someone who is presently on government assistance, and cannot even support themselves or their kids right now, should think twice about getting a pet.

Somebody in that position shouldn't think about getting a pet no. But if they do get one anyway, then the question is whether you take the animal away from them, and end up paying for the animal anyway, or put the animal to sleep, or leave the animal with them, and help to pay for it. As long as they love the animal and the animal loves them, and they actually want to take good care of it, then I prefer the last optio

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